Flosi takes over as Air Force’s top enlisted airman

by Tommy Grant

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force David Flosi on Friday took charge as the service’s top enlisted airman, becoming the face of the enlisted force as it pivots toward a new era of war.

In a ceremony at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, Flosi pledged to be a steadfast wingman to a force scrambling to respond to crises around the world, from war in Europe to violence in the Middle East, while new threats arise with “alarming frequency.”

“Our airmen are busy. Our nation is asking a lot. It can be a challenge to meet the demand,” he said.

But together, airmen are unstoppable, he said: “I am confident in our ability to rise to the occasion.”

As the 20th chief master sergeant of the Air Force, Flosi is the primary adviser to the service’s secretary and chief of staff on military readiness and quality of life for more than 665,000 uniformed and civilian employees worldwide.

He will be a leading voice in the Pentagon’s forthcoming review of pay and benefits, the Air Force’s efforts to recruit more American youth to military service, its plan to build a new warrant officer corps and more.

And he’ll present the enlisted perspective in top-level discussions as the Air Force nails down the details of two dozen initiatives designed to compete with China for military influence and supremacy around the globe, including revamping how airmen deploy and the jobs they’re asked to handle abroad.

“We recognize we are serving at a time of consequence. It is imperative we acknowledge the urgency of the challenges we face,” Flosi said. “We must remain an aligned and focused workforce to continue to meet the demands of our nation.”

Flosi most recently served as the senior noncommissioned officer at Air Force Materiel Command, which oversees the multibillion-dollar acquisition and sustainment portfolio for aircraft, munitions and other equipment across the service.

He has also worked at the Air Force Sustainment Center, with the U.S.-led effort to train the Afghan air force, and as a nuclear weapons technician, among other assignments.

At Friday’s ceremony, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Allvin said Flosi’s selection was an easy choice in a pool of talented and respected chief master sergeants.

The service’s new top enlisted leader is analytical, a good listener and “principled without being inflexible,” Allvin said.

“He has the vision to be able to paint you that beautiful island that everybody wants to go to, in great detail,” Allvin said. “But he also has the rare ability to tell you the steps that you need to get to that island. That’s a rare combination.”

Under Flosi’s leadership, Allvin said, the force must ditch practices that worked during the war on terror but are outdated in today’s digitally focused, fast-paced security environment.

“We’re going to have to break some china if we’re going to break some China,” Allvin quipped.

Flosi replaces JoAnne Bass as chief master sergeant of the Air Force, who is retiring from military service after more than three years in the top enlisted job and 31 years in uniform.

When Bass assumed the role in August 2020, she became the first woman to hold the highest senior enlisted rank in any of the military branches, and the Air Force’s first Asian American to serve in the job.

Bass used her tenure to push for higher pay and expanded benefits for the enlisted corps amid the coronavirus pandemic and a volatile economic landscape in the years that followed. She has urged airmen to think outside the box to work as a team while staying true to standards of military professionalism.

In one of her final major speeches to the force as chief, Bass last September cautioned airmen not to “underestimate the cyber and the information domains” as major drivers and amplifiers of conflict.

“Every single day, we ought to be asking ourselves, ‘Am I my best? Am I moving the ball? … Am I taking care of my fellow wingmen?’” she said. “I tried to do this every day as your chief master sergeant of the Air Force.”

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall on Friday called Bass an unmatched advocate for airmen who is unafraid to speak truth to power.

He recalled how, nearly 50 years ago, he attended an educational program with the first female lieutenant to serve in the Army’s air defense corps.

“I think after 50 years, it’s time to stop having ‘firsts’ and enjoy retiring the firsts as more and more people serve,” he said.

Other leadership changes

The enlisted change of responsibility is the latest in a series of leadership shuffles around the Air Force and Space Force.

Air Combat Command welcomed Gen. Ken Wilsbach as its new boss Feb. 29, bringing the former Pacific Air Forces commander to Virginia to manage the bulk of the service’s fighter, intelligence and other tactical assets around the world.

Wilsbach replaces Gen. Mark Kelly, who is retiring after more than three years at the helm of Air Combat Command. The new commander will be a key stakeholder in the Air Force’s effort to bring on a next-generation fighter, drone wingmen, advanced target-tracking aircraft and more.

The top job at Pacific Air Forces was filled Feb. 9 by Gen. Kevin Schneider, the former staff director at the Air Force’s Pentagon headquarters in Virginia.

Schneider will lead airmen from Alaska to Guam in the U.S. military’s top-priority region as the Air Force looks to counter Chinese aggression and bolster its relationships — and its footprint — in countries around the Pacific.

Wilsbach and Schneider are both decorated fighter pilots with more than 4,000 hours in the cockpit. Each held leadership roles around the Pacific and Middle East before being promoted to run Air Force major commands.

Rachel Cohen is the editor of Air Force Times. She joined the publication as its senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), Air and Space Forces Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy and elsewhere.

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